Now THAT’S Defamation…

I don’t know what is so hard to grasp about the concept of defamation. The idea is that one must not assert as fact something about a person that is demonstrably false and that holds that person up to public ridicule or hostility, harming their reputation. It is easily distinguishable from opinion: it must be published “with fault,” meaning as a result of negligence (asserting a “fact” without checking that it is true) or malice (with the intent of harming someone’s reputation). Why is that difficult? I don’t know. This guy, however, really doesn’t understand defamation, and he was a radio talk show host. That’s like not understanding snakes and becoming a snake charmer. Yes, the ethics value being missed here is competence.

New Hampshire radio talk show host Michael Gill (above)  used billboards, his website and his radio show called “State of Corruption Radio” to call local businessmen, among other things, heroin dealers. A typical broadcasts included quotes like this:

“Now I told you, and I’ve been telling you, the heroin dealers are in this state are Anagnost and Crews. Now who are these people? Well a couple of the wealthiest men in our state. That’s how they got wealthy, okay? They have a warehouse. I brought this up. We had witnesses, distributing and unloading drugs and machine guns from trucks.”

Wait, what? Didn’t this guy have a lawyer? Didn’t the station have a lawyer? Any lawyer within hearing distance of a broadcast like that had a duty to rush to the station, break into the studio, and stuff a wadded up sock in Gill’s mouth. Continue reading

Ethics Musings Sparked By The Passing Of Ken Beatrice, D.C. Sports Talk Legend

kbeatrice2

If you did not live in the D.C. area in the Eighties, you probably never heard of Ken Beatrice, who just died in a hospice at the age of 72. There was a time when Beatrice was the radio sports authority in pro football crazy Washington D.C., and star of the most popular and talked about call-in show of any kind on the local radio. He deserved his popularity, for Beatrice was smart, hard-working, knowledgeable, professional, and nice. His career, its rise and fall, was also a hard ethics lesson, for anyone paying attention, on why it is that good people do unethical things that hurt themselves more than anyone else.

Beatrice’s acclaim arose out of his astounding knowledge of football at all levels, from the pros to high school. I’ve never cared about football, but I listened to Ken’s show just because he was amazing. From his Washington Post obituary:

“His knowledge of pro football players, current and potential, was nonpareil. Call in to ask about the third-string quarterback at a second-tier college, and Mr. Beatrice could tell you the player’s height, weight and 40-yard dash time.He was so attentive to the game, a sportscaster once told The Washington Post, that he was able to recite a team’s depth chart off the top of his head, naming both the starters and the second- and third-stringers who would eventually replace them.”

This doesn’t even do Beatrice justice: you had to hear him. It was like a Las Vegas magic act. A caller would say, “I graduated from Madison High in Rexburg, Idaho, and I hear they have a running back on the football team that may have pro potential…I can’t think of his name..” Continue reading

Ghost Of Ethics Dunce Past: “Hardball” Guest Kevin James

Chamberlain

[CORRECTION: Boy do I feel stupid. For some reason Slate ran a story about this ridiculous exchange on Hardball, and it confused me into thinking it was current, and related to the Iran deal. My mistake; thanks to Rick Jones for flagging it. Other than the time frame, everything I wrote about James (and Matthews, and MSNBC) stands, and James’ pundit malpractice deserves as much exposure as possible. I’ve made a few edits to eliminate the confusion, which was all mine. I must say, however, I question the need for dredging up past idiots on political talk shows when there is such an abundance of current ones]

I didn’t know who Kevin James was—all I could find were references to the comedian who starred in “King of Queens.”  Apparently this James is a former L.A. mayoral candidate, a lawyer, and radio talk show host. Because MSNBC likes playing the game of finding the most ridiculous, inarticulate, wild-eyed, nut-ball conservative it can to represent any position the network’s ideological clones oppose, Chris Matthews used this guy in 2008 to explain whyt Republicans  thought Obama was “an appeaser” like Neville Chamberlain.  James’ position was that Obama was following in the infamous footsteps of  Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler in Munich while trumpeting “Peace in our time.”

Incredibly, James had no idea what Chamberlain did, and maybe even who he was. Matthews humiliated him by exposing his guest’s jaw-dropping ignorance as James shouted, protested and broadcast to all that he was the epitome of a badly educated, unprepared ideologue, out of his depth, his league, and his mind: How could any sane individual go on TV to compare Obama to Neville Chamberlain without doing the minimal research necessary to justify the comparison?

This is incompetent and irresponsible punditry, advocacy malpractice, and rank stupidity. Of course, it is also unethical for Matthews and MSNBC to allow anyone so abysmally unqualified to be a guest, but fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Still, the majority of the blame has to fall on James.

This fool was a federal prosecutor?

I bet the other Kevin James would have done better.

But he might not have been funnier.

Watch, and wince:

____________________

Spark and Pointer: Slate